Epiphany 3C: January 21, 2007 – “The Body of Christ”

02 Feb

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

The Body of Christ

            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.  The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle which was read earlier.

            Growing up, Sesame Street was a favorite show of mine.  One of the things I learned from Sesame Street was the parts of body.  There was a song that taught me that the hip bone is connected to the leg bone; the leg bone is connected to the knee bone; the knee bone is connected to the foot bone and so on.  The point of the song is to teach you that the body is made up of various parts and that you need all the parts of the body for the body to function.  The same is held true for the body of Christ, as Paul writes to the church at Corinth.

            “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ….  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”  The human body has many different parts, but they all fit together perfectly and function together perfectly.  Every part of the body is useful.  Just as the human body is united, so is Christ’s body, the church.

            God uses many pictures to describe how the kingdom of God works.  Several of them present the shape, the form the kingdom of God takes when it becomes visible among people here on this earth.  We call it “the church” or we think of it as a congregation.  Scriptures speak of it as a building, a body, or a family.  All these pictures show us to be in a relationship with one another, related in such a way that if any one of us is missing, the body, the building, the family would be incomplete.

            That’s why we confess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one holy Christian and Apostolic Church.”  That’s why in the communion liturgy we stretch ourselves to the far reaches of all time and all places saying, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.”

            Paul introduces one of the most brilliant and memorable images of the entire Bible, the church as the body of Christ, a body in which the members, though many, are indeed one.  His language is vivid and concrete.  But the clarity of Paul’s words might tempt us to think of this passage as just simple words and a beautiful picture.  However, that’s the opposite of what Paul is telling the Corinthian church. 

            We are made members of one body, the body of Christ.  How did that happen?  Did I sign up to be a member of the body of Christ?  Was I drafted for this?  It was nothing that we did.  It was something that was done to us and for us.  This occurred for us at our baptism. 

            Just recently, two of our members have joined the Church Triumphant.  In each of those sermons, we have been reminded that we have been brought into the body of Christ through our baptism.  It is in our baptism that we are made holy, that we are made heirs of the forgiveness which comes through Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is also in holy baptism that we are made members of the body of Christ.

            We are the body of Christ, Trinity Lutheran Church, Gillette, Wyoming.  We are the body of Christ as various boards and committees, Midweek School classes, Bible study groups.  It is in these forms that the body of Christ, the kingdom of God, becomes visible, touchable, as people reach out to one another, relate to one another in grace and mercy and forgiveness.  In our baptism God has washed us clean and brought us into the body of Christ.

            The church at Corinth was a motley crew to say the least.  Paul talks about Jews and Greeks, about slaves and free people.  There were rich people and there were poor people; people from the inner city and from the suburbs.  There were people having trouble with their marriages; people going to court to sue one another; quarreling and bickering was common.  The point which Paul is making in our text for today is though we are all members of the body of Christ, we are all different members of that body.  “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

            Take a moment and look at the various parts of your body.  You have hands which function in various ways.  They are used for working, for playing, for drawing, for countless functions.  You have your legs.  They help you get from Point A to Point B.  Legs can function to help you work, for playing.  There are other functions that legs serve, but they can’t perform the functions that hands can perform.  The same is true of the parts of the face.  We have eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth.  Each performs certain functions which the others cannot.  No part of the church can cut itself off from the whole.  Each part of the church serves its own function and is needed.  Paul tried to convey that message to the Corinthian church but they didn’t fully understand what it was that Paul was saying.  When we read Paul’s words, we don’t necessarily fully understand what it is that Paul is saying.

            If you look at those people here this morning, you will see different professions.  Some are teachers while some are students.  Some are doctors and nurses, while some are police officers.  You have some who stay at home while some travel so much, they don’t really call any one place home.  Regardless, each of these people makes up the body of Christ.  Each has their own vocation.  Each performs a different role in the body of Christ.  Paul reminds us that “God has appointed” them all, no matter what their gift or office might be.

            To think that we can get along without one another is really rather ridiculous.  We each make up the body of Christ, each with our various vocations and abilities.  This reinforces what Paul tells us.  “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

            Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  Today we take a moment and place a special value on human life.  We remember those unborn children who have been killed by abortion.  We remember the elderly who are no longer able to care for themselves.  Regardless of one’s age or whether or not they are inside or outside of the womb, every person is a child of God and belongs to His family.  Each is an integral part of the body of Christ and Paul makes this point rather clear with his descriptions of the various parts of the body.

      No Christian is an island.  We need Jesus.  We are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We make up the body of Christ and in turn, Christ is reflected in us and by our actions.  We need the Church.  The Church is made up of the body of Christ.  As Paul says, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”  We each have various gifts and talents which make up the body of Christ, the Church.  The Church needs all kinds of people in order to function properly, just as the body needs the various body parts in order to function properly.  We need each other.  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”  The body of Christ—the Christian church—is to work that same way, spiritually.  When one Christian suffers, all Christians suffer.  When one Christian rejoices, all Christians rejoice.  We are all in this together, all part of Christ’s church.

      We are all united in the body Christ through our baptism.  We remain united through Christ’s body and blood, given for us for the forgiveness of sins.  It is by His Word and Sacraments that we become, we are, and we ever more shall be, the body of Christ.  Amen.

      Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus until life everlasting, amen.

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